ATLANTA, GA – Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard is no stranger to the court room. He has been the district attorney for six terms and is currently running for a seventh term.
Although he is very familiar with prosecuting cases, perhaps not as familiar to him is being investigated himself, until recently.
Howard has been under investigation for sexual harassment and utilizing money from his own non-profit to supplement his paycheck.
Now he has a new allegation against him, fraudulently using grand jury subpoenas when there was not one seated.
According to Fox News Atlanta (FOX 5 I), the Attorney General for the State of Georgia has requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to add into their current investigations his use of Grand Jury subpoenas regarding the Rayshard Brooks homicide case.
The Fox News reporter, Dale Russell says that the subpoenas were issued when there was no active grand jury, nor had there been since March.
Issuing a grand jury subpoena has not been seated is not ethical nor proper according to former Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe’s attorney, Noah Pines.
Pines advised that doing so violates a state bar rule and said:
“When there was no hearing, trial or deposition pending that would have supported the issuance of the subpoena,” that issuing them is prohibited under Georgia law.
The maximum penalty for violating such a condition is punishable by disbarment. Grand Juries had been suspended in Georgia due to the COVID-19 Pandemic in March.
Georgia State University Professor Jessica Gable Cino, who specializes in prosecutorial misconduct also believes there is a problem. Cino told Fox 5 I:
“What are we doing? That is a violation of our ethical code of conduct.”
Cino points out that:
“It would be a violation of criminal law to make a knowingly false statement or misrepresentation in the subpoena which is a document that has been issued.”
In other words, lying in an official document is illegal, regardless of who you are or why you are doing it.
Howard’s office issued a statement regarding this high-profile accusation, stating that an “employee issued the Grand Jury subpoena,” because they believed the March/April grand jury was still active. Howard claims to have set the employee straight and ordered suspending “the issuing of future Grand Jury subpoenas.”
“This is an incredibly serious high-profile case, and any misstep could get a case dismissed like this. Nobody wants that,” warned Cino.
While the new legal trouble Howard seems to be in may just be civil in nature, or at least, no jail time involved if it is found he violated a rule or law, his earlier allegations may well land him in jail.
In May of this year, it was reported that Howard was under investigation for allegedly taking money from his own nonprofit, People Partnering for Progress, to pay himself. Records from the nonprofit show that he received a minimum of $140,000 of the grant money instead of it going for who it was intended.
In a statement given to WSB-TV 2, Howard said of the investigation:
“This is not the first time what would be considered as an administrative matter for other Georgia elected officials is turned over to the GBI for investigation when it involves the Fulton County district attorney.”
The first allegation to which Howard is referring to is when the GBI investigated Howard for using forfeited money from criminals to pay for parties and dinners for his staff and their families.
For that investigation, which occurred in 2014, Howard stated:
“I was totally exonerated. As for the ongoing investigation, If the faces are followed, it is my expectation that the result will be exactly the same.”
While that may be true, he also is facing at least two sexual harassment complaints. The first complaint was made alleging inappropriate comments and unwelcome physical contact. The woman, Tisa Grimes, alleges that this harassment started in January and continued through September. She also claims she was demoted for not welcoming the sexual advances.
The claims, which Grimes made public by sending letters to the Mayor’s office and City Council members, were that Howard had sexually propositioned her and grabbed her buttocks.
Grimes also stated that she has audio recordings which prove that she had been sexually harassed in the workplace. These allegations Howard strongly denies, and also believes he will be found innocent when the truth comes out.
And now, a new sexual harassment allegation is also dogging him. Recently, a paralegal and records supervisor filed a civil lawsuit against Howard alleging several years of “overt, manipulative and aggressive sexual misconduct and harassment.”
The complainant in this case advises that she did give in to Howard’s sexual advances a few times since 2004. However, she claims she was fired in June of this year after she no longer wanted to engage in a sexual relationship with him.
Howard’s attorney, Anita Wallace Thomas, advises that the complainant in the case was not fired for ending a sexual relationship, but rather because she had been arrested earlier that day in Clayton County.
It seems that Due Process, as is a right of all Americans has duly been afforded to Howard, as he is able to continue with his campaign and work as the prosecutor in Atlanta. Howard may be innocent of all of the claims brought against him. Thankfully, for him, at least Due Process applies to the District Attorney’s Office.
Last week, we learned that prior to Brooks being pronounced dead, he was about to be criminally charged with 10 criminal counts (with some being felonies) based upon his actions on June 12th that led to him being shot.
This revelation comes from not just anyone, but from a report drafted on June 21st by one of the very investigators tasked with looking into the events between the officers present during Brooks’ shooting.
READ IT: #AtlantaPD detective assigned to the #RayshardBrooks investigation says he would have charged Brooks – not Rolfe – with 10 counts, including multiple felonies. Usually law enforcement are witnesses for the state but this is from a defense filing. pic.twitter.com/huj903b7Tu
— Philip Holloway ⚖️✈️ (@PhilHollowayEsq) June 29, 2020
The report was written by Detective Al Hogan from Atlanta Police’s Homicide Unit and Major Incident Team, which the MIT specifically looks into officer involved shootings within the APD.
According to the report delivered by Hogan, he detailed his level of experience within the APD and also his relevancy associated with the preliminary stages of the Brooks investigation:
“I am the Homicide/MIT investigator that was assigned the case involving Officers Rolfe and Brosnan regarding their interaction with [Rayshard] Brooks. I was called in from my home shortly after the incident occurred and began my investigation upon my arrival at the scene.”
Detective Hogan stated that he’d obtained all the video and audio evidence from the interaction, as well as spoke with witnesses that were available at the time while the scene was active.
At the time of gathering said evidence, Detective Hogan noted that Brooks was still alive:
“After leaving the scene on the night of the incident, I was informed by [Rayshard] Brooks was alive but critical at Grady hospital, and I returned to the Homicide office to review all the evidence that I had gathered to determine if [Rayshard] Brooks’s behavior warranted any criminal charges.”
Well, turns out that after Detective Hogan reviewed the evidence, he was getting ready to get some charges in order – until it was revealed that Brooks had passed away:
“My investigation showed that [Rayshard] Brooks’s behavior did in fact warrant several criminal charges, but before I was able to pursue the charges I was informed that [Rayshard] brooks had died, negating the necessity for that portion of my investigation.”
Atlanta Detective: I Would Have Sought 10 Charges Against Rayshard Brooks for Behavior in Deadly Altercation https://t.co/tdSNAeBcJ5
— David, Ph.D. (@americanshomer) July 3, 2020
It would be rather superfluous to administer charges to someone deceased, as noted by Detective Hogan.
However, given the current circumstances and case against former Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolf that includes felony murder, the detective provided the list of criminal charges that he intended to recommend be brought forth had Brooks still been alive.
The charges, as cited by statute and description by the detective, are as follows:
- DUI/DUI Less Safe, a violation of OCGA 50-6-391
- Felony Obstruction, Two Counts, a violation of OCGA 16-10-24
- Aggravated Assault against a Police Officer, Two Counts, a violation of OCGA 16-5-21
- Battery against a Police Officer, Two Counts, a violation of OCGA 16-5-23.1
- Theft by Taking, a violation of OCGA 16-8-2
- Removal of Weapon from a Public Official, a violation of 16-10-33
- Robbery, a violation of 16-8-40.1
Now, it’s important to note charges of “aggravated assault”, “battery”, and “robbery by taking” were listed among the charges being recommended against Brooks.
The reason why, is because Georgia law would reasonably permit even citizens from using deadly force against actions similar to that of Brooks’ on the evening of June 12th.
According to law firm Pate, Johnson & Church, any resident of Georgia can utilize deadly force against an assailant for the following reason:
“Georgia provides that a person may use deadly force if he believes that it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or a third person or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”
The key takeaway from that outlined justification is a “forcible felony”. That’s not some buzzword, but an actual reference to Georgia law, specifically § 16-11-131(e), which states the following:
“As used in this Code section, the term “forcible felony” means any felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any person and further includes, without limitation…burglary in any degree; robbery; armed robbery…”
Georgia law allows for lethal self defense if you "reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to you, or to another, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."
Not just PD but everyone.
— Young Thomas (@BaltTigger) June 18, 2020
So, in the charges that were meant to be recommended against Brooks, there was “the use or threat of physical force or violence” as noted by the aggravated assault & battery charges and then the robbery charge.
Meaning, this appears to be a textbook case of a “forcible felony”, which affords everyday citizens in Georgia the right to employ deadly force.
It will be interesting to see if the aforementioned circumstances are considered as this case against former Officer Rolf develops.